Training Hard & Smart

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Article written by Marshall White for LiftBigEatBig.com

I am a proponent of training like an animal and believe you me I love training as much if not more than most athletes.  Here’s the thing though, as an athlete if you want to make optimal gains you have to train HARD and SMART.  What does this mean? This means that sometimes training 6 days a week for 3-4 hours a day is not always the way to optimize your gains.

I’ve been seeing some people lately on the LBEB Facebook site talking about using the Bulgarian method as their system of training.  While I respect their ability to work like a mule I do not think they are getting the gains they could be getting if they added a dash of smart to all that hard they have in their program.  Think about it logically.  Building muscle and strength is all about tearing down muscle fiber then letting it heal stronger.  If you are constantly tearing the muscle fibers you are obviously missing out on a key component to getting stronger.  There has to be a time for healing and recovery. 

  The argument is made that by training like the Bulgarians the athlete is doing so many reps of the selected movement that form is being worked so hard that it almost becomes second nature.  There is some validity to this argument.  But again let’s look at this logically.  If an athlete were to properly program in form work without neglecting or negatively affecting building their pure strength and recovery would this not create a better athlete? Yes the athletes form might be slightly less efficient but if the athlete is fully recovering between training session they will be  stronger, thereby moving more weight.  Which is the end goal right?


I respect athletes that can train 5-7 days a week but I maintain they would be better off by “condensing” these workouts into fewer, more intense days, allowing for recovery and repeat the process.  It seems to me that moving a 400lb deadlift 3 times in a week is far better than moving 300 6 times in a week.  In addition all the food and sleep you are getting will go to making you grow and add muscle rather than recovering you just enough to do the same workout 4 more times that week.


As athletes I think we all want to believe that if we just work a little harder than everyone else we will be the best.  Hell I know I do.  I wish to god I could just go out and load stones all day and all of a sudden be the strongest man in the world.  Unfortunately, the reality is it doesn’t work that way. We must be smart about our programming, allow for recovery while still working our asses off in order to see the biggest gains.

  • Anonymous

    I like this a lot. I’ve been training 5-6 days a week and though the work outs are different I still go into some thinking ” Man I’m Beat! I probably could.of gotten that PR if I gave myself a break from time to time”

  • Travis Jewett

    I remember reading once the Bulgarian coach was asked what they did if their lifters ever plateued. He said “we find another lifter.” I think that just reinforces what Marshall is saying

  • Christie

    Once you’re in the mindset that you need to work like an animal to get strong, it’s just damn hard to accept that recovery is as important as your workouts. I still get anxious on my rest days because I feel like I’m not working hard enough! I have to remind myself constantly that rest and recovery is all part of the process, and it’s GOOD to take a break. Then, when I get back to the gym I feel mentally and physically psyched to rip the sh*t out of my workout!

  • Anonymous

    Big M, it would be helpful if you mentioned what kind of recovery schedule you’re on, or what you recommend your athletes do for their recovery. Is it a day, days, a weeke ever? What, if anything, do you do on your recovery days? Do you eat more or less?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16676960188844964030 Jonathan Lisee

    Hell yes! Agree 150%

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04643259633451258276 Amy

    Could not agree more. Last year I was training 3 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, and training randomly, mixes of cardio and strength, with no real goals, but wanting to be stronger (AND trying to consume are 1200 calories a day). I remember sitting down in my living room around march, so tired and frustrated because I was’nt progressing and felt so weak. Then I sprained my ankle. I couldnt do anything, and had to take time off. When I started back training and realised Id gotten stronger, I knew something had to change. Out went the crazy training, and in came set sessions, 3 days a week, with a goal….strength is key. 4 months on, and Ive never felt better. Im seeing gains, and doing things at pole I’d been working on with no avail for months. Smarter beats harder hands down for me anyday.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04610495340528995778 I’ma MuzikAddikt

    For beginners I would have to agree with you. You shouldn’t even be considering the Bulgarian lifting method unless you have at LEAST 3 years of lifting experience under your belt. There is a reason that the Bulgarian method has created some of the worlds strongest lifters though… Because it works. I don’t understand how you could knock a proven method of training. The body is an amazing machine and can adapt to high frequency training. The whole idea behind high frequency training is for strength gains and not muscle size. These are two entirely different training concepts you are failing to consider which is maximal strength/CNS vs hypertrophy.

    If you want to get bigger, then lift a muscle group and destroy it. Wait 7 days before lifting said muscle group again to reap the greatest benefits from hypertrophy training (I have a reference to this claim… Alas I am on my cellphone so I cannot pull it up at the moment as it is bookmarked on my laptop)

    For maximal strength training though… Which is what the Bulgarian system is all about… High frequency training reigns supreme. Have you ever heard of “over train to gain”?

    There is a reason that in Russia, Waldo finds you.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04610495340528995778 I’ma MuzikAddikt

      Let me finish by saying High Frequency Training (like the Bulgarian method) is most efficient at increasing maximal strength but can also produce hypertrophy as well. Just not as efficiency as hypertrophic oriented workouts would. Maximal strength training produces rock hard dense muscles while hypertrophic oriented training produced soft bloated muscle bellies. I don’t know about you all but I lift big & eat big, so I personally love maximal strength training and being hard as a rock. I am a huge advocate of high frequency training and have seen success with it not only in myself but also with my clients and my friends.

    • Anonymous

      Amen I’ma MuzikAddikt….HFT rules, i never had success with regular programs. Once i started to dive into the world of HFT things become more better in terms of quality muscle, strength and work capacity, yeah sure there are days i feel beat up but i autoregulate and sort things out vary rep ranges, speed, stance grip…just go in get the work done and get out.